MariaOrtega, 15, and her son, Miguel, decorate sugar cookies on Feb. 12 at a meetingfor teenage parents participating in the Oklahoma Parents As Teachers Program.In Tahlequah, Okla. (Photo by Christina Good Voice)
Cherokee Nation and Tahlequah Schools offer new Head Start
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation and Tahlequah Public Schools are partnering to offer an Early Head Start class for children of teen parents attending Tahlequah High School. The class is set to begin this spring at THS.
The class will care for nearly 50 children between the ages of 6 weeks to 3 years. THS will provide the on-campus facility, while the tribe will provide staff and other necessities.
The facility will be located in the same building as the Tahlequah Central Academy, an alternative education program where many teen parents attend classes.
“Tahlequah Public Schools is excited to be partnering with the Cherokee Nation Head Start to expand their program to serve our students who are teen parents,” said TPS Assistant Superintendent Billie Jordan. “We have recognized the need for this program for years and have searched for ways to provide this service so that teen parents can attend school and at the same time learn hands-on parenting skills while their babies receive quality child care.”
Laura Baltazar, 19, said she’s excited the class is nearly open because it would give her peace of mind knowing her children, 3-year-old Elder and 7-month-old Eyzel, would be cared for.
“It’ll be easier because they’ll just be right there,” she said.
Bethany McDonald, who is with the Oklahoma Parents As Teachers at Central Academy, said the class would also allow parents to ease their minds about paying for daycare.
Baltazar said she pays $400 a month for daycare, but with the class she can start saving that money.
“This will help save a lot of money,” she said. “A lot of young moms, we want to come to school but we have our babies.”
McDonald, who works daily with the teen parents on parenting skills, said she sees the class as removing an obstacle to their learning.
“I see a great way for our (OPAT) program to partner with the Head Start,” she said. “I see it merging so well. We’re going to be able to have better access to our teen moms. They’re going to be right here.”
Some teen moms said the class would also help them be able to concentrate more on school if they know their babies are in good hands. Maria Ortega, 15, said she’ll be able to focus better once the Head Start opens because her 10-month-old son Miguel will down the hall.
“It’s going to be easier,” she said. “He’ll be closer to me.”
Principal Chief Chad Smith said the CN created the program to be a good partner in the community, to keep teenage parents in school to finish their educations and get the fathers of the children involved in the children’s lives.
“Through establishing this partnership with the school, we can help provide a way for the students to continue their education, which in turn will help the community,” he said.
Tribal and school officials agreed that students have a better chance of attending college or another form of post-secondary education upon graduation from high school.
Doing so will help the students better provide for their family later, Jordan said.
“There is so much research showing what an effective program it is anyway and how well those babies do in school,” she said. “If we want to talk about really overcoming poverty, Head Start is a great way.”
TAHELQUAH, Okla. – The Northeastern State University Alumni Association board of directors has chosen two Cherokee Nation citizens as 2017 honorees of the university’s Distinguished Alumnus awards.
CN Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden and Julie Erb-Alvarez were selected as distinguished alumni and will receive their honors on Sept. 29 at the Alumni Association Honors Dinner and again Sept. 30 at the homecoming Emerald Ball. Both events are open to the public.
Awards are presented annually to NSU alumni who, through personal achievement and service, have brought honor and distinction to both themselves and the university, a NSU release states.
Crittenden graduated from NSU in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and business administration. Crittenden has previously served on the Tribal Council, as the Eastern Oklahoma vice president for the National Congress of American Indians and as a U.S. Postal Service postmaster. He is also a Navy veteran.
“It is an honor to receive this award from Northeastern State University,” Crittenden said. “It has been 43 years since I graduated from the university, and I still wear my gold NSU class ring every single day. I was an atypical college student, returning to school after serving in the U.S. Navy during Vietnam. However, I was blessed to receive an excellent education at NSU, and what I learned there helped guide me on a long career of public service.”
Crittenden has given back to NSU by supporting the tribe’s efforts to restore Seminary Hall and install modern classroom technologies. He also offers support and advice to youth in their pursuit of higher-education opportunities.
“I am proud to say I am an alum of a school that is so committed to Native students and developing leaders for Indian Country,” Crittenden said. “Cherokee Nation and NSU have established one of the most unique and successful collaborations between a tribal government and public higher education institution.”
NSU President Dr. Steve Turner said Crittenden was extraordinarily qualified to be recognized as a distinguished alumnus.
“His career path is highlighted by many years of service to the Cherokee Nation and to our country. I am so excited for Joe and his family and am honored to call him friend,” Turner said.
Erb-Alvarez is a distinguished epidemiologist and chief of patient recruitment for the National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute who graduated from NSU in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in health and human performance.
She continued her education at the University of Oklahoma, earning a master’s degree in epidemiology. She has served as an epidemiologist for the Oklahoma Tribal Epidemiology Center, the Indian Health Service and the Bureau of Public Health, Ministry of Health in the Republic of Palau.
Erb-Alvarez was commissioned into the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps in 2010 and was deployed to Monrovia, Liberia in response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa in 2014-15. She is a life member of the NSU Alumni Association.
“I was truly honored when I received the call from NSU President Steve Turner. I was completely surprised and really excited when he told me I had been selected as one of the 2017 Distinguished Alumni. And then when explained who the other honorees were, it instilled another sense of pride and emotion. I am deeply grateful for this honor, and am completely humbled with the company I now keep, with those who are also being honored this year and those who have been honored in the past,” she said. “I look forward to NSU Homecoming Weekend in September when I can come back to my beloved alma mater and experience NSU all these many years later. I can’t wait to talk with students, educators, other professionals and friends – those who helped build my education – and share my post-graduation career and life experiences. I want them all to know and understand how much NSU has given me. I had a very solid foundation thanks to my years at NSU. It was easy for me to find my way and excel after an educational experience like that. Both of my parents are NSU graduates, and I was born while my parents were students and living at NSU married student housing. I have a long, long and wonderful history with NSU. The fact that NSU began as a Cherokee Seminary gives it all the more meaning to me as a Cherokee citizen.”
Turner said Erb-Alvarez has amassed an outstanding list of accomplishments since her time at NSU.”
“Her commitment to preserving the health of the nation and serving others through the National Institute of Health and the United States Public Health Service is admirable and makes her more than deserving of this honor,” he said.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — According to a Cherokee Nation Communications release, the Sequoyah High School Alumni Association has created a scholarship opportunity for Cherokee students with the Cherokee Nation Foundation.
The $15,475 donation was matched through the foundation’s “Leave a Legacy” program and now totals more than $30,000, the release states.
“We learned about the foundation’s matching program and couldn’t resist the opportunity to double our dollars and make a lasting impact on future generations of Sequoyah graduates,” Dewayne Marshall, Sequoyah High School Alumni Association president, stated in the release. “We know that scholarships can sometimes be the deciding factor on whether or not a student goes to college and hope that our endowment will help bridge that gap. It’s important for them to know that there are alumni that care about them and support their pursuit of higher education, and hopefully, they return one day and do the same for others following in their footsteps.”
According to the release, the endowment will support one $1,500 scholarship each year to a SHS graduating senior to attend the university of his or her choice. The scholarship is payable to the university and can be applied to tuition, books, fees, housing or other education-related expenses.
“It is a great thing to impact the life of a student, and we are thrilled to have another donor join us in our mission to support Cherokee students,” CNF Executive Director Janice Randall said in the release. “We are thankful for the support we have received from our board of directors and Cherokee Nation administration and hope others will take advantage of this opportunity while it lasts.”
According to the release, CNF launched the “Leave a Legacy” matching program in 2016, allocating $100,000 to match gifts ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 on a first-come, first-served basis.
For more information, call Randall at 918-207-0950 or email <a href="mailto: email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a>.
LONGMONT, Colo. – The First Nations Development Institute is accepting applications for its First Nations Native Agriculture& Food Systems Program that aims to encourage more Native American college students to enter the agricultural sector.
First Nations will award five $1,000 scholarships to Native college students majoring in agriculture and related fields, including but not limited to agribusiness management, agriscience technologies, agronomy, animal husbandry, aquaponics, environmental studies, fisheries and wildlife, food production and safety, food-related policy and legislation, food science and technology, horticulture, irrigation science, nutrition education and sustainable agriculture or food systems.
Complete information and a link to the online application can be found at <a href="http://www.firstnations.org/grantmaking/scholarship" target="_blank">www.firstnations.org/grantmaking/scholarship</a>. All applications must be completed and submitted by 5 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time on Sept. 28.
To be eligible, applicants must:
• Be a full-time undergraduate or graduate student majoring in an agricultural-related field, or be able to demonstrate how their degree program relates to Native food systems,
• Be tribally-affiliated and able to provide documentation,
• Have a grade point average of at least 2.75, and
• Demonstrate a commitment to helping his or her Native community reclaim local food-system control.
Each applicant will be asked to complete an online application and provide other required information, including proof of tribal affiliation, college enrollment verification, unofficial transcripts, a letter of recommendation from a faculty member and a short essay submission of 250 to 500 words.
First Nations officials said reclaiming control over local food systems is an important step toward ensuring the long-lasting health and economic well-being of Native people and communities. Native food-system control has the potential to increase food production, improve health and nutrition and eliminate food insecurity in rural and reservation-based communities, while also promoting entrepreneurship and economic development. The Native Agriculture & Food Systems Scholarship Program’s purpose is to encourage more Native American college students to enter these fields so they can better assist their communities with these efforts, according to a First Nation press release.
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — At the time of his death in 1999, Parker McKenzie was regarded as the oldest living member of the Kiowa tribe. Born in a teepee in Oklahoma three years prior to the 20th century, he was also widely recognized as an amateur linguist who played a fundamental role in developing a dictionary of his native Kiowa language nearly 100 years ago.
"He was just known for being the guy that you would go to," Andrew McKenzie recalls of his great-grandfather, whose many projects included the documentation of Kiowa history, cultural artifacts and language.
The elder McKenzie's method for writing Kiowa using English characters is still used, in a modified version, by researchers today. And Andrew McKenzie, who grew up knowing bits and pieces of the language, is one of them.
McKenzie, an assistant professor of linguistics at the University of Kansas, recently secured a grant from the federal government that will allow him to continue his great-grandfather's work in preserving the Kiowa language — a pressing need, McKenzie says, as the number of fluent Kiowa speakers dwindles by the year.
"Languages only exist in our minds, so once those speakers leave us, they take the knowledge with them, essentially, unless that knowledge is preserved through documentation," says McKenzie, who began formally studying Kiowa about 20 years ago. "In that sense, the documentation becomes essential because it would allow the language to survive into the future."
The more complete that documentation is, McKenzie adds, the better chances are for the language's survival as native speakers pass away. Kiowa, like many North American languages, is "extremely endangered," says McKenzie, who estimates there are about 60 fluent speakers left. They're mostly elderly and concentrated in McKenzie's home state of Oklahoma, where he often travels to conduct interviews with remaining Kiowa speakers. And they likely won't be around much longer, he says.
"I think the youngest person I've worked with was in their 80s," McKenzie says.
The Lawrence Journal-World reports that earlier this month, McKenzie learned he'd won a three-year grant from the Documenting Endangered Languages program of the National Science Foundation. The $112,000 award will allow him to "fill a gap" in the study of Kiowa grammar, work his great-grandfather started as a kid passing notes in his native tongue — speaking Kiowa was strictly forbidden at the boarding school he and other Native Americans were forced to attend — during class to his girlfriend, funnily enough.
That early system devised by Parker McKenzie became the basis for methods still used today, though there's no consensus on the matter, McKenzie says. The Kiowa tribe has never voted to designate an official writing system.
These days, McKenzie is using his great-grandfather's system to document and expand our understanding of Kiowa's semantic grammar. Or, as McKenzie describes it, "the meaning of the language, and how that meaning interacts with the structure."
Linguistically, Kiowa's closest relatives are the handful of languages spoken by Pueblo peoples in New Mexico, McKenzie says. It's far removed from more well-known North American dialects such as Cherokee and Navajo, he says, and completely unrelated to European languages. Kiowa is unique, among other traits, for its ejective sounds and tone system, in which "the pitch of the sound can be as distinctive as two distinct sounds," McKenzie explains.
Throughout the duration of the grant, McKenzie will work on a book, associated scholarly articles and teaching materials such as booklets, games and flashcards.
"Growing up I remember he would frequently lament that his progeny were not learning the language," McKenzie says of his great-grandfather. "In that sense, I think he'd be excited."
"I think if he were still around, he'd be the first to help me out," McKenzie said.
CATOOSA, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation is accepting grant applications until Sept. 29 for its fall education tours. The sponsored tours provide an exclusive look at Cherokee Nation’s rich history and culture.
Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism awards the grants in the spring and fall to elementary public schools within the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction.
Complimentary curriculum is provided to schools that receive grants and is available to teachers upon registration. Curriculum includes a teacher’s guide to prepare students for the education tour as well as a student activity.
The Cherokee History Tour visits the tribe’s historic Capitol Square, Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum, Cherokee National Prison Museum, Murrell Home, Cherokee Heritage Center and the ancient Cherokee village Diligwa in the Tahlequah area.
The Will Rogers Tour visits the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore and Dog Iron Ranch in Oologah.
The Civil War Tour visits the Capitol Square and Murrell Home as well as the Fort Gibson Historic Site.
Grants are available for grades third through sixth. Funding is provided on a first-come, first-served basis.
Minimum requirements for eligibility for schools include being located within the CN’s 14-county jurisdiction, a majority of the school’s students must hold a Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood card, the school’s class size may not exceed tour capacity and the majority of the school’s students must be eligible for free and/or reduced school lunches.
Schools that do not meet the requirements or miss the deadline may experience the program for a small fee. Special rates are available for seventh through 12th grade and college students.
Applications are available at <a href="http://www.VisitCherokeeNation.com" target="_blank">www.VisitCherokeeNation.com</a>. For more information or to book a tour, call 918-384-7787.
CLAREMORE, Okla. – Cherokee Nation officials donated $15,000 to Claremore-Sequoyah Schools on July 20 to purchase the school’s first gymnasium air-conditioning unit.
The Rogers County school has about 1,300 students enrolled in grades pre-kindergarten through 12.
Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Dist. 14 Tribal Councilor Keith Austin, of Claremore, visited presented the check to Claremore-Sequoyah Schools Superintendent Dr. Terry Saul.
“We are very appreciative of this partnership between the Sequoyah School district and the Cherokee Nation,” Saul said. “Our school and community would like to extend a heartfelt thank-you to Chief Baker and Councilor Austin for hearing our need and providing for our school and community.”
In operation since 1908, the gymnasium hosts events such as athletic events and practice to community events.
“Unfortunately, problems like air-conditioning upgrades are a budget item that most of our local schools can’t afford right now,” Austin said. “Thanks to the partnerships that we continue to have with Claremore-Sequoyah and other local schools, we are able to make a positive difference in the lives of all children in our communities.”
Funding for this donation came from the tribe’s special project funds.